Event—Adult Education

Lady Audley’s Secret: A Serial Reading of a Victorian Sensation

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Over six sessions, we'll discuss Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s use of sensation fiction to critique cultural attitudes about gender, class, and sexuality.

Mary Elizabeth Maxwell by William Powell Frith. Source: National Portrait Gallery, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Class Description

When Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s sensational detective novel, Lady Audley’s Secret, burst onto the literary scene in 1861, readers were electrified by its intricate plot, complex characters, and terrifying meditation on the dark secrets lurking within respectable Victorian homes.

Wildly popular at the time and now considered a foundational sensation novel, Lady Audley’s Secret was serialized in Robin Goodfellow, the Sixpenny Magazine and the London Journal before appearing in at least nine editions during a three-month period in 1862. Despite achieving immense success and financial security— no small feat for a woman in the 19th century— Braddon was subjected to intense scrutiny because she lived with her married publisher.

Over six sessions, we'll discuss how Braddon used a popular literary genre to critique mainstream attitudes about gender, class, and sexuality, creating one of the most widely loved works of Victorian popular fiction in the process.

Amber Pouliot has a PhD in English Literature from the University of Leeds. She is an associate editor of Bronte Studies and serves on the editorial board of Victorians: A Journal of Culture and Literature. She has published widely on the literary and cultural afterlives of the Brontes.

Materials List


First Reading:

  • Prior to our first meeting, please read chapters 1-7 of volume 1.

Cost and Registration

This class is full, but you can still register for the waitlist on Learning Stream.

Six sessions, $255 ($230 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.

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